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FROM MILAN TO THE METAVERSE:
FASHION GOES DIGITAL

Step into the stylish corner of Web3...

We’re hot off the heels from the world’s first Metaverse Fashion Week, which featured the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss and more showcasing their Spring 2022 collection to the world. Taking place on the 3D virtual-world, browser-based platform, Decentraland — which is housed on the Ethereum blockchain — this four-day event included digital fashion shows, after-parties and user-shopping experiences.

Increasingly, every industry is finding itself drawn to a Metaverse (the dominant one yet to be decided), and are incorporating NFTs and Cryptocurrency into their business model. An example being the so-called ‘digital land rush’ where users are racing to own digital real estate in the metaverse. The fashion industry is no different. The Dencentraland Metaverse Fashion Week is the culmination of high fashion’s fervent interest in the Metaverse – but how did we get here?

The fashion industry — and especially high fashion — are always looking for ways to push the envelope, both in their creative presentation and product development. Each and everyone of the core high fashion brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, Fendi and more, all look to set trends, as opposed to following them.

Therefore it’s not surprising that they have adopted the Metaverse swiftly, and with ease. Even as early as 2018, the industry saw the arrival of ‘virtual influencers’, with Prada’s Autumn/ Winter show springing to mind. In 2019, Tommy Hilfiger began investing in virtual influencers and 3D design, as it looked to boost both its brand and sustainability credentials. The brand experimented with digital influencers for its Spring 2019 campaign and Chief Executive Daniel Frieder even said that they had ambitions of becoming “the biggest fashion tech company in the world.” The mindset — brought about by the emergence of the Metaverse — even affected their production process, with Grieder noting that by 2022, all garments sold will be created in a digital lab, prepared by designers using computers instead of sketching patterns manually.

"How you dress is how you communicate with the world...In the metaverse, fashion very much does the same thing. No longer are you confined to a bio, or a profile picture."

The worldwide Coronavirus pandemic certainly exacerbated the adoption of the metaverse for many brands, as they shifted to a digital-first model. Brands like Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton all showcased their virtual fitting rooms in 2021. In October, Facebook would change their name to Meta, and with that, the masses had recognised that the Metaverse is fast-approaching; especially if one of the ‘big five’ world tech corporations took such a powerful stance on it. Balenciaga held a virtual show in collaboration with Fortnite (one of the architect companies of the new shared metaverse), while brands like Balmain, Prada and H&M followed suit.

Forbes journalist Catherine Erdly notes that during London Fashion Week 2022, a group of panellists were discussing the influence of NFTs and the metaverse on the fashion industry, following the unveiling of a digital dress NFT in the upcoming Autumn/Winter 2022 collection from brand Roksanda. Erdly argues that they likened the birth of the Metaverse to the arrival of the internet and that the fashion industry was slow to adapt to the infinite eCommerce opportunities in the late 90s, stating that this is “clearly something they are anxious to avoid this time around.”

There are also ramifications for the planet. Much has been made of the sustainability factor with digital fashion. With the mass adoption of the metaverse, the global production of clothes would be reduced, upending the fashion industry completely and revitalizing the industry as a pinnacle of a sustainable economy, instead of mass pollution and climate crisis-driving one.

Much like the arrival of the internet in the late 90s, the arrival of Web3, the Metaverse, NFTs and Crypto is being scrutinized. But here’s why you should care. How you dress is how you communicate with the world, and by selecting the particular clothes that you do, you are unconsciously signalling to the world what tribe you belong to, what your interests are, and what you value as a person. In the metaverse, fashion very much does the same thing. No longer are you confined to a bio, or a profile picture.

Erdly also refers to Leanne Elliott Young, CEO of the Institute of Digital Fashion, who argues that the key utilities of NFTs/Metaverse in the fashion industry are; the ability to gauge product and sales reaction before creating the physical product and the ability to offset problems caused by supply chain issues, delivering new designs to customers before relying on garment production.

So where do we go from here? Well, expect more high fashion brands to incorporate NFTs/the metaverse/crypto into their business. For Balmain, the development of NFTs is now a ‘strategic pillar of their business’ and the 100-year old legacy brand Gucci has proclaimed that the metaverse is “already a very real place” for them. Join the club, Gucci.

This feature was taken from our special bespoke issue with Jeremy Fall, available below now…

Words by NINA MARIE & OLIVER-JAMES CAMPBELL

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